On Wednesday, the stock market gave back some of the ground it had gained over the past week and a half, with declines of less than a quarter-percent for the Dow and the S&P on Wednesday. Housing data that included a plunge in new-home sales threw cold water on the bullish theory for the U.S. economy, but many investors were willing to see that figure as a weather-related aberration. Regardless, Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ: ISRG ) , Cree (NASDAQ: CREE ) , and iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT ) all posted much more severe losses in today's session, reflecting company-specific news that alarmed shareholders.
Intuitive Surgical fell more than 11% as the robotic surgery specialist issued its first-quarter report last night. Revenue dropped by almost a quarter as the number of da Vinci surgical systems that Intuitive Surgical sold was cut nearly in half. In dollar terms, systems revenue fell by almost 60%, but service revenue also fell 10%, leading to a drop of more than three-quarters in earnings per share. Not only did Intuitive Surgical say that procedure growth fell, but it also reduced its growth guidance for the rest of the year and blamed the Affordable Care Act as not only directly hurting its sales but also discouraging hospital customers from buying its devices. Until health-care providers get more comfortable with the rapidly changing environment in the industry, Intuitive Surgical might have difficulty in closing sales deals.
Cree dropped 12%, with the maker of light-emitting diodes seeing 16% revenue growth and a 15% rise in adjusted earnings, topping what investors had expected to see in earnings by a penny per share. Nevertheless, gross margins for the LED company fell, and although revenue guidance for the current quarter was slightly higher than most were projecting, earnings guidance was on the weak side, with Cree again projecting a small drop in gross margins. The big question facing Cree is whether it can bolster its growth through smart acquisitions, as CEO Chuck Swoboda expects that the LED industry will undergo consolidation. If Cree can find good partners to wrap into its corporate structure, then it could hold the key to Cree's future.
iRobot declined more than 10%. First-quarter earnings for the maker of defense and consumer robots were stronger than investors had expected, even though sales growth of 7.5% was insufficient to prevent iRobot from seeing a 37% drop in net income. But guidance for the current quarter and the remainder of the year failed to satisfy shareholders who were holding out for more growth, and given iRobot stock's lofty valuation, falling short on the growth spectrum has been a recipe for declines lately. There's no denying that iRobot has plenty of potential, but the company needs to develop it more quickly in order to keep its stock from falling further.
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